Herbert Allen Giles (8 December 1845 – 13 February 1935) was a
British diplomat and sinologist who was the professor of Chinese at
Cambridge University for 35 years. Giles was educated at
Charterhouse School before becoming a British diplomat in China. He
Mandarin Chinese romanisation system established by Thomas
Wade, resulting in the widely known
Wade–Giles Chinese romanisation
system. Among his many works were translations of the Analects of
Confucius, the Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching), the Chuang Tzu, and, in 1892,
the widely published A Chinese-English Dictionary.
3 Diplomatic postings
5 Written works
9 External links
Herbert A. Giles was the fourth son of
John Allen Giles
John Allen Giles (1808–1884),
Anglican clergyman. After studying at Charterhouse, Herbert became
a British diplomat to Qing China, serving from 1867 to 1892. He also
spent several years (1885–1888) at
Fort Santo Domingo in Tamsui,
northern Taiwan. He was the father of Bertram, Valentine, Lancelot,
Edith, Mable, and Lionel Giles. In 1897
Herbert Giles became only the
second professor of
Chinese language appointed at the University of
Cambridge, succeeding Thomas Wade. At the time of his appointment,
there were no other sinologists at Cambridge. Giles was therefore free
to spend most of his time among the ancient Chinese texts earlier
donated by Wade, publishing what he chose to translate from his
eclectic reading in Chinese literature.
His later works include a history of the Chinese Pictorial Art in
1905 and his 1914
Hibbert Lectures on
Confucianism which was
published in 1915 by
Williams and Norgate (de). He dedicated the
third edition of
Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1916) to his
seven grandchildren, but at the end of his life was on speaking terms
with only one of his surviving children. An ardent agnostic, he was
also an enthusiastic freemason. He never became a
Fellow at one of the
constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge, despite being a
university professor for 35 years. He finally retired in 1932, and
died at 89
Giles received the
Prix Julien award from the
French Academy in 1897
for his Chinese Biographical Dictionary. Generally considered
unreliable among modern academics,
Endymion Wilkinson described it
full of inaccuracies and the selection leaves much to be desired.
Between one third and a half of the dates are wrong because Giles
supposed that if somebody is recorded as having died in 1200 aged 63
he or she must have been born in 1137 (in most cases 1138 would have
been a better guess).
He also ran afoul of the Chinese scholar Gu Hongming, who declared
Dr. Giles' Chinese biographical dictionary, it must be admitted, is a
work of immense labour. But here again Dr. Giles shows an utter lack
of the most ordinary judgment. In such a work, one would expect to
find notices only of really notable men.
Nor did Gu appreciate Giles' great Chinese-English Dictionary
describing it as
... in no sense a dictionary at all. It is merely a collection of
Chinese phrases and sentences, translated by Dr. Giles without any
attempt at selection, arrangement, order or method," and "decidedly of
less value than even the old dictionary of Dr. Williams."
Vice Consul at Pagoda Island, Mawei (1880–1883)
Vice Consul at Shanghai (1883–1885)
British Consul at
British Consul at
List of awards and honours:
Order of Chia-Ho
Gold medal of the Royal Asiatic Society
Prix St. Julien by the
French Academy (twice)
Honorary degrees from the
University of Aberdeen
University of Aberdeen (1897) and University
Giles, Herbert Allen (1872). Chinese Without a Teacher. A.H. de
— (1873). A Dictionary of Colloquial Idioms in the Mandarin Dialect.
A.H. De Carvalho.
— (1874). Synoptical Studies in the Chinese Character. Kelly &
Company.  
— (1876). Chinese Sketches. Trübner & Company. Archived from
the original on March 28, 2006.  
— (1877). Record of the Buddhistic Kingdoms. Trübner &
— (1877). Handbook of the Swatow Dialect: With a Vocabulary.
[Published with the assistance of the Straits' Government].
— (1877). From Swatow to Canton: (overland). Trübner.
— (1878). A glossary of reference, on subjects connected with the
— (1879). On Some Translations and Mistranslations in Dr. Williams'
Syllabic Dictionary of the Chinese Language. A.A. Marçal.
— (1892). A Chinese-English Dictionary. B. Quaritch. Volume 1
— (1892). A Chinese Biographical Dictionary. B. Quaritch.
— (1898). Chinese Poetry in English Verse.
Wade, Thomas Francis;
Cambridge University Library (1898). A catalog
of the Wade collection of Chinese and Manchu books in the library of
the University of Cambridge. Compiled by Herbert Allen Giles.
University Press. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
— (1901). History of Chinese Literature. 
Great Religions of the World (1901)
— (1901). Chinese Without a Teacher: Being a Collection of Easy and
Useful Sentences in the Mandarin Dialect, with a Vocabulary. Kelly
& Walsh, limited.
— (1902). China and the Chinese. Columbia University Press, The
Macmillan company agents. 
Thomas Lowndes Bullock; Herbert Allen Giles (1902). Progressive
Exercises in the Chinese Written Language. Kelly & Walsh,
Launcelot Cranmer-Byng; Herbert Allen Giles (1902). The never-ending
wrong: and other renderings of the Chinese from the prose translations
of Herbert A. Giles. Grant Richards.
Giles, Herbert Allen (1905). An Introduction to the History of Chinese
Pictorial Art. Kelly & Walsh, ld. 
The Religions of Ancient China (1906) , Archibald Constable &
— (1911). Chinese Fairy Tales.
— (1911). The Civilization of China.
— (1912). China and the Manchus. The University Press. 
"China" in History of the Nations (1913)
Confucianism and Its Rivals (1915)
How to Begin Chinese: The Hundred Best Characters (1919)
The Second Hundred Best Characters (1922)
Gems of Chinese Literature, 2nd ed. (Shanghai and Hong Kong, Kelly
& Walsh, 1922; London, Bernard Quaritch, 1923)
Revision of Bullock's Progressive Exercises (1922)
Chuang Tzǔ: Mystic, Moralist, and Social Reformer (1926, Shanghai)
The Chinese and Their Food (Zhonghua Fanshi) (1947, Shanghai)
"The Memoirs of H.A. Giles," 
East Asian History
East Asian History 13 (1997):
1–90. Dated 1925.
Sungling P'u (1880). Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. T. De la
Rue & Company.
Lao Tzu (1886). The Remains of Lao Tzu.
Wang Yinglin (1900), San Tzu Ching (三字經）
^ "Herbert Allen GILES (1845–1935)" on the
^ "Table of contributors". Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.
^ "Giles, Herbert Allen (GLS932HA)". A
Cambridge Alumni Database.
University of Cambridge.
^ Aylmer, Charles,
East Asian History
East Asian History 13–14, 1997, pp. 1–7;
Sterckx, Roel, In the Fields of Shennong: An inaugural lecture
delivered before the University of
Cambridge on 30 September 2008 to
mark the establishment of the Joseph Needham Professorship of Chinese
History, Science and Civilization. Cambridge: Needham Research
^ "An Introduction to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art by Herbert
A. Giles". The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs. 7 (29): 405.
August 1905. JSTOR 856445.
^ Chavannes, Ed. (1905). "An Introduction to the History of Chinese
Pictorial Art by H. A. Giles". T'oung Pao. Second Series. 6 (2): 251.
^ Giles, Herbert A. (January 1916). "
Confucianism and Its Rivals". The
Journal of Race Development. 6 (3): 350. doi:10.2307/29738158.
^ Schlegel, G. (1897). "古今姓氏族譜, A Chinese Biographical
Dictionary by Herbert A. Giles". T'oung Pao. 8 (4): 438–441.
^ Kennedy, George A. (July–September 1950). "Dates in Giles'
Biographical Dictionary". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 70
(3): 188–189. doi:10.2307/596269. JSTOR 596269.
Endymion Wilkinson (2000). Chinese History: A Manual. Harvard
University Asia Center. p. 157.
^ "A Great Sinologue," in The Spirit of the Chinese People Wikisource
^ Ryan, Janette. "Giles, Herbert Allen (1845–1935)". Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography (2004 ed.).
Oxford University Press.
doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33401. Accessed 29 August 2016.
Cooley, James C., Jr. T.F. Wade in China: Pioneer in Global Diplomacy
1842–1882. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981.
Minford, John and Tong Man. "Whose Strange Stories? P'u Sung-ling
Herbert Giles (1845–1935), and the Liao-chai chih-i"
East Asian History
East Asian History 17/18 (1999), pp. 1–48. Accessed 1
Giles, Herbert, Edited and with an Introduction by Charles Aylmer,
"The Memoirs of H.A. Giles, The," East Asian History.13 (1997):
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